Nicknamed “the Everest of the Seas,” the Vendée Globe is considered to be the most demanding race to exist because it is a singlehanded event comprising no stops and no assistance. For its 8th edition starting this Sunday, 29 skippers will be taking up this landmark navigation challenge. Created in 1989 by Philippe Jeantot, the inaugural competition was won by Titouan Lamazou. From edition to edition, the race has become a myth, progressing from a completely deranged challenge into a high-flying sporting and human trial, which has inspired a few more ideas.
One person, one boat, and the ocean. This was what Philippe Jeantot had in mind when he set up the Vendée Globe in 1989. That year, 13 sailors set off to sail around the world singlehandedly, without stops or assistance, inciting widespread admiration :
“La course du siècle, le Vendée Globe Challenge” – Stade 2 du 26 novembre 1989 – INA
Ever since, while technology has brought big changes and allowed over 30 days to be slashed from the initial record, taking on the Vendée Globe remains a major sporting challenge.
But “one challenge will replace another,” as Titouan Lamazou observed after his victory in 1990. At the initiative of Lamazou and Florence Arthaud, the Vendée Globe gave birth, four years later, to the Jules Verne Trophy and the dream of sailing around the world in 80 days. Once again, this wager seemed a bit crazy to start off with. Until Bruno Peyron met the challenge in 79 days in 1993. But as the years go by and records are bettered, circumnavigation continues to preserve its incredible aura.
In the next few days, whether boats are manned singlehandedly or by crews, the focus will be on sailing round the world. Twenty-nine sailors now hope to improve François Gabart’ record (78 days, 2 hours and 16 minutes in 2013) while Francis Joyon and his team on Idec Sport are watching weather conditions closely to set off, as soon as possible, on their attempt to win the Jules Verne Trophy, last won in 2012 by Loïck Peyron (45 days, 13 hours and 42 minutes).
Isabelle Trancoen (article translated from French)